In the popular imagination, vitamin D is a milk supplement included for bone health. But its benefits go way beyond the skeleton. A multi-year University of Colorado study on nursing home and assisted living residents has added strong evidence of vitamin D’s positive influence on the immune system, particularly among those with vitamin D deficiency. For many patients, that “D” might as well stand for “defense.”
Adit Ginde, MD, MPH, a University of Colorado Hospital Emergency Department physician and professor and vice chair for Research in the CU Department of Emergency Medicine, focuses his scientific work on the link between vitamin D and lung infection among older patients. In November, he and colleagues reported that, among seniors of an average age of 81 who live in metro Denver long-term care facilities (LTCs), high doses of vitamin D reduced acute lung infections by an astonishing 40 percent over a 12-month period.
Ginde cautions that the study was small – 107 patients in total, 55 of them receiving high doses of vitamin D averaging out to about five times the USDA’s recommended daily dose of 600-800 international units (IUs). But it’s more proof that vitamin D supplements among the aged can help them fight off illnesses such as pneumonia, influenza and bronchitis as well as other sorts of infections, which are, Ginde said, “important and common problems in this population.”